The California First
Theater Collection consists of records, artifacts, and memorabilia
connected with the oldest theatrical performance house in California.
bulk of the documentation is related to the theater's last major period
of activity, from 1937-1999. In addition, the collection contains
significant documentation of contemporary theatrical performance in San
Francisco, Chicago, and New York City.
The building in which the first paid public dramatic
entertainment in California was staged is located in Old Monterey. John
(Jack) Swan, a sailor of Scottish descent, arrived in Monterey in 1843
crew member on the Soledad, a Mexican brig
engaged in the coast trade between Mexico and Alta California. Upon
arriving in Monterey, Swan likes the small city and decides to stay. A
lack of immediate employment forces him to sea again, this time as a
on the Mexican schooner California,
captained by John B.R. Cooper, another American destined to historical
importance in Monterey. After a pair of successful trade voyages
Monterey and the Mexican port of Mazatlan, Swan's culinary skills lose
their luster with Captain Cooper and he loses his post. Whether he was
fired or jumped ship is unknown, but he arrives in Monterey at the end
1844, once again with no work. This time, enterprising Swan decides to
make a name for himself as a baker and manages to set up a small shop.
The American influx to California has begun in earnest by this time and
Swan's Yankee patrons soon make Swan's pies a favored concoction. By
1846, with money acquired from the business, he purchases some land on
the old Calle Estrada, now the southwest corner of Pacific and Scott
Streets. In the summer of the following year he begins construction on
adobe structure, a small house already having been built, with the idea
of turning it into a boarding house for itinerant sailors such as he
was just a few years prior.
12.49 cubic ft.
Property rights reside with the California Department
of Parks and
Recreation. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the
records and their
heirs. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact the
Department of Parks and Recreation, Monterey State Historic
collections are open for research by appointment only. Appointments may
made by calling 831-649-7110.